May 2007

Money in local politics

I read on Chapel Hill Town Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt's blog that the NC General Assembly is considering allowing Chapel Hill to establish a program for public financing in municipal elections. With some notable exceptions, I actually think Chapel Hill and Carrboro are some of the few places where money does not control local elections. (Mostly, I just want to put a muzzle on Chapel Hill Mayoral candidates.) But if it's an opportunity to show other communities how this can be done, I'm all for it.

Folks gotta be more open minded

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, April 28th:

Last week a number of neighbors of Freedom House, an addiction and mental illness treatment center in northern Chapel Hill, came out to speak against a proposed expansion of the facility.
Most of their concerns centered on safety. One neighbor, Cingai Chen, summed up the rhetoric pretty well by saying, "We are very worried about some day those patients will create a safety concern for our community."

The operative words in that statement are "some day." The reality is that Freedom House has been in our community for more than three decades and there have never been problems. It's a well-run place with tremendous success stories and has never created anything resembling a crime problem. There's no reason to believe expanding the facility would change that.

Local leaders meet with Rep. Price on Shearon Harris

Last Friday, delegates from six local government bodies met with Congressman David Price to discuss concerns about fire safety and related issues at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant. Of particular focus was the concern that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has not been fulfilling its responsibility for regulatory enforcement. Since the chemical plant fire in Apex, safety questions at Shearon Harris have garnered increased local scrutiny as have uncertainties surrounding evacuation procedures.

In attendance were:
Mark Kleinschmidt, Chapel Hill Town Council
Randy Voller, Mayor of Pittsboro
Mike Nelson, Orange County Commission
Tom Vanderbeck, Chatham County Commission
Mike Gering, Hillsborough Board of Commissioners
Dan Coleman, Carrboro Board of Aldermen
[Jim Warren of NCWARN also attended as a resource]

In addition to the fire safety issue, the following areas were discussed:
-spent fuel storage
-adequacy of evacuation planning
-threats to nuclear facilities

Skill Share @ the Hillsborough Road Co-op

Free food, workshops, and music this Saturday (May 5) and Sunday (May 6) at the Weaver Community Housing Association's oldest cooperative. Sustainable food harvesting workshops, gender identity discussions, magic trick swap, and more! All documented by The People's Channel! All ages welcome. Please bring a donation for the bands.

Carrboro Day

... is this Sunday. What's your favorite activity? Do you think it will rain?


  • 12:30-1:00 Village Band
  • 1:15- 1:45 L in Japanese
  • 2:00-2:30 Bo Lozoff & Friends
  • 2:45-3:15 Shannon O'Connor
  • 3:30-4:00 Great Big Gone
  • 4:15-4:45 Lo K Shun
  • 5:00-5:30 Too Much Fun
  • 5:45-6:15 Saludos Compay
  • 6:30-7:00 Storm Front

Stories & Magic

  • 2:00-4:00 Deep Magic of Joshua Lozoff
  • 2:00-3:00 Mother Goose


Green business and eco-tourism

The N&O's recent article questioning the green credentials of the local Chamber of Commerce seemed to signal a departure from their past coverage which generally accepted the Chamber's promotion of the "triple bottom line" without too much skepticism.

I especially liked the following quotation from James Carnahan as it reminds us that the Chamber is not a monolithic entity with only one opinion. In a way, every member is speaking for and demonstrating the organization's values, even if they're not a paid spokesperson.

Town of Carrboro Charter Printed in The Citizen

In this weeks Carrboro Citizen you'll find the Charter of the Town of Carrboro. You may wonder who besides a politician or bureaucrat would enjoy reading this document? Well me for one.

Why? Because within this ancient legalese lies answers to why things happen in Carrboro. Time and time again here on OP people ask why a Town does this or that. Most, but not all, answers to these questions can be found in this document. Barring interpretation and enforcement of-course.

Now I may not sit down and read the whole thing at once. But I will digest this document in small chunks. Plus I'll use it as a reference. Its so much easier to read a big paper folded long ways like a city bus rider than a 8 1/2 x 11 PDF IMHO.

Rally for local war protesters today

I've heard some folks call them the David Price Six, which has a nice ring to it. But it's also notable that Representative Price has requested to drop the charges against the six protesters who occupied his office in an effort to get him to more vigorously oppose the war.

Six local protesters go on trial this afternoon on trespassing charges in connection with an anti-war demonstration in U.S. Rep. David Price's office in February.

On March 26, the six -- Laura Bickford, Ben Carroll, Alisan Fathalizadeh, Sara Joseph, Dante Strobino, Tamara Tal -- pleaded not guilty to the charges. They had called on Price to oppose all further funding for the war and to seek an immediate withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq.

Since then, Price has written a letter to District Attorney Jim Woodall asking him to drop the charges against the six, protester Carroll said in a release.

Whither the Herald?

Fiona Morgan has an article in last week's Independent Weekly about the much-discussed rumor that The Herald-Sun is considering ending publication of The Chapel Hill Herald as a separate paper.

Herald-Sun Editor Robert Ashley confirms that the paper is considering such a move, but he said that news of The Chapel Hill Herald's demise is "premature."
- Independent Weekly: News: Orange: Herald-Sun owners weighing fate of The Chapel Hill Herald, 5/2/07

Fiona always does a good job covering media ownership issues, which is why I was surprised that she didn't mention the Carrboro Citizen in her listing of other media that covers southern Orange County. True, it's not daily, but it is the local antidote to mega media chains like Paxton which bought the Herald-Sun in late 2004 and proceeded to slash and burn, firing 80 of 351 employees and making themselves more enemies in this already competitive market.

Building a better economy

Randee Haven-O'Donnell and I have a guest column in today's Chapel Hill News on Carrboro's efforts to actualize sustainability through locally-based economic development. Our approach is based largely on the thinking of Michael Shuman, author of "The Small-Mart Revolution," who served as a resource during the Board of Aldermen retreat back in January.

To read the column, go here. You can also read and comment on the N&O's OrangeChat.

Let me add to what is in the column that many of the ideas are not new to our area. Some of our most heralded economic success stories -- Weaver Street Market, Carrboro's Revolving Loan Fund, the Farmer's Market, Piedmont Biofuels -- are along the lines of the local living economy model. The recent Culture Shock initiative is also very much along these lines.



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